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City website lacks information, group says

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(photo by Harry Scull Jr. / Buffalo News file photo)

The City of Buffalo's website could use a little sunshine, according to an advocacy group's review.

The city tied Albany for the worst level of transparency among websites for six cities in the state, the Sunshine Review found.

Buffalo's website lacked information, including meeting minutes, meeting schedules and vendor contracts. The site also failed to provide information on lobbying activities, as well as the contact information for the person handling information requests, the review found.

Buffalo received a grade of "C" from the organization, a non-profit which launched in 2008, according to its website.

The city does provide a good amount of what the organization was looking for: contact information for elected officials and departments, current and previous budgets, meeting agendas, audits, bids, permit applications and tax information.

"The citizens and taxpayers of Buffalo should be pleased that Mayor Byron Brown is fulfilling his promise to add employee salary information the city's website. However, citizens would be better served if Buffalo also added information about access to public records and taxpayer funded lobbying to the site." Michael Barnhart, president of Sunshine Review, said in an emailed statement. "Transparency is about citizens having the information they need to hold officials accountable. Salary information is a good step forward. Several more steps would be even better." 

Check out the Sunshine Review's full evaluation of the city's website.

Buffalo and Albany got the same grade. Here's how the other four cities that were studied fared (click the links on each for that city's report):

Rochester: A-
New York City: B
Yonkers: B
Syracuse: B-

The only thing missing from Rochester's site, according to the Sunshine Review, was lobbying information.

Mayoral spokesman Michael J. DeGeorge said it's not easy to respond to the report, since several branches of government post information on the site.

"From the city's end, the site has improved and we want to continue to improve the site," DeGeorge said.

Aside from the city's website, Buffalo recently has run into other transparency issues with its Urban Renewal Agency. Some board members have called for more openness after the agency awarded federal grant money to a project involving a man convicted of fraud.

On the plus side, the city is planning on streaming more meetings online.

--Aaron Besecker
Follow me on Twitter: @BeseckerBN

 

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City of Buffalo | Common Council
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Robert J. McCarthy

Robert J. McCarthy

A native of Schenectady, Robert J. McCarthy came to The Buffalo News in 1982 following a six-year stint at the Olean Times Herald. He is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University, and has been covering local, state and national politics since 1992.

rmccarthy@buffnews.com


Tom Precious

Tom Precious

Tom Precious joined The Buffalo News in 1997 as bureau chief at the state Capitol, where he covers everything from statewide politics and state government fiscal affairs to health care, environmental and municipal government matters. Prior to The News, he worked for news outlets in Albany and Washington, DC.

tprecious@buffnews.com


Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri

Jill Terreri is an Amherst native and has covered politics and government in upstate New York since 2003. She joined The Buffalo News in 2012 and covers City Hall.

@jillterreri | jterreri@buffnews.com


Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski

Jerry Zremski, The Buffalo News Washington bureau chief, has reported from the nation's capital since 1989 after joining The News as a business reporter in 1984. A graduate of Syracuse University, Zremski is a former Nieman fellow in journalism at Harvard University. In 2007, he served as president of the National Press Club.

@JerryZremski | jzremski@buffnews.com

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